Despite being five games under .500, the Redskins have felt as though they've been playing for something all year long.
Even after the playoffs became a distant possibility, the club was fighting for a strong finish to the season. Then, because of the NFC's struggles, Washington suddenly had distant postseason hopes again.
Now, following last weekend's loss at Dallas, the season is all but officially over. On Sunday the Redskins (5-10) play Minnesota (8-7), which can ensure a trip to the playoffs by winning.
Will Washington have difficulty getting motivated for this one? Defensive line coach Greg Blache is convinced the Redskins won't.
"If you've got riff-raff, if you've got people that lack character, then it would be difficult," Blache said. "The best thing we did, when we cut this team back in training camp, we kept guys with character."
That has been the club's rallying cry throughout coach Joe Gibbs' first season back. There's a firm conviction in Washington that something is being built for the future, even if the results haven't been evident in the team's record.
That, however, was easier to believe last week. Sunday's 13-10 loss at Dallas made it seem as though the Redskins hadn't made any progress at all on offense. The club generated just 233 yards and let the struggling Cowboys sneak away with what would have been a feel-good win.
"We didn't score but 10 points," guard Randy Thomas said. "That's not enough in this league. We've got a chance to bounce back this week. We can get a little momentum going into next year. You're only as good as the last game you play."
The positive spin being put on the loss is that Dallas played "inspired" on defense, counteracting what might have been a decent Redskins performance.
"I know it appeared like (it was a step back), but I think we played an inspired and a better defense than we've played in awhile," quarterback Patrick Ramsey said. "We had an injury (to running back Clinton Portis), a couple turnovers, a couple penalties. We definitely didn't take a step forward, but I'd hate to say we took a step back."
Still, it became overwhelmingly clear that this team has a variety of issues to address during the offseason. The offense might need to cut some high-profile players, perhaps wide receiver Rod Gardner or left tackle Chris Samuels, and bring in some playmakers.
In addition, Gibbs must take a hard look at his offensive system, which has grown extremely conservative and ineffective.
In the interim, the Redskins have this one game to play. And even Blache, while predicting that Washington will be up for the challenge, acknowledged that the Vikings would provide the stiffest of tests.
"They have weapons of mass destruction and multiple sources of them," Blache said, referring to Vikings skill-position players such as Randy Moss. "They're the most dynamic offense in the league."
Redskins Hope Character Will Carry Them
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